Horror Story Review: "The Transition of Juan Romero" by H. P. Lovecraft
April 10, 2016 8:47am CST
Only now that he’s getting on in years does the narrator of this story he feel an obligation to make a record of the extraordinary events that occurred at the Norton Mine October 18th and 19th, 1894. Of himself, he wishes to say little, only that he’s wears a gold ring as a momento of time spent in India. He’s assumed a common name and was working as a common laborer in the American West. Juan Romero began working at the same mine not long after he did. He spoke little English and the narrator found his “Oxonian Spanish quite different from the patios of the peon of New Spain.” Juan Romero, an apparent scion of the Aztecs, was the lone survivor of an epidemic and had been raised (and named) by a cattle thief. He is immediately interested by the narrator’s ring, though this doesn’t seem to be greed. He makes himself something of a boon companion/servant of the narrator. Things seemed to point to gold being straight down in the deep in the mine. The mine superintendent had charges laid that were powerful enough to shatter windows in the shanties of the mine’s neighbors. The abyss that opened appeared bottomless and after some initial testing the crew was reluctant to descend into it. No ropes were long enough. The Superintendent accedes and dismisses the night crew. They all go into town. A storm kicks up as they turn in for the night. The narrator remembers hearing a coyote howl, then a dog bark. He remembers the wind. Then Juan Romero stands before him saying, “¡Madre de Dios!—el sonido—ese sonido…THAT SOUND!...el ritmo de la tierra—THAT THROB DOWN IN THE GROUND!” I can’t say the ending was entirely satisfying, but this is a relatively early story. Nevertheless, what really irked me about this was the overt and unapologetic racism. According to the story, Mexicans are thieving and ignorant. Juan Romero stands out because of his relatively light skin and his “Red Indian” features. He doesn’t appear to be a “greaser.” He speaks bad Spanish. The narrator, whose first language is English, speaks better Spanish that he does. I realize this reflects the time it was written, but it grates to read. I can’t recommend this story. The text is available below. _____ Title: “The Transition of Juan Romero” Author: H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) First published: written in 1919 first published in Marginalia 1944 Source: ISFDB *An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion on myLot.*
'The Transition of Juan Romero' by H. P. Lovecraft
6 people like this
• United States
2 Jun 16
I don't like it, but I understand what is acceptable at one time is different. I think that changing the name of the character in Huck Finn to "Slave Jim" is silly. My objection to this story was not the word "greaser" so much be the stereotyping of Mexicans. His character is better and his skin is lighter. Lucky [illegitmate chilld].
• Los Angeles, California
10 Apr 16
H.P. Lovecraft is a legendary early pulp fiction writer. Yes, you have to take the tone in stride for the era in which it was written. It's easy to become offended for one reason or another by the majority of written works and many movie prior to this politically correct era.
• United States
11 Apr 16
@JohnRoberts I'm in two minds about this. I enjoy Lovecraft's ability to create these dreamy atmospheres. "The White Ship" is a good early example. He really was a master of such things. The xenophobia is a fly in the ointment that I can't overlook. On the other hand, the [bad word for reduction from a higher to a lower state or condition] of texts to make them more palatable to 21st readers—like changing the well-known name of a character in Huck Finn that I can't use on myLot to "Slave Jim"—is an insult to the reader's intelligence, IMHO. Ok. Off the soapbox.